Edited by Anna Popper
A great nation’s journey includes several important milestones that collectively influence its national identity. Beyond establishing independence, the adoption of a constitution forms the most important basis of a country’s political system and processes, as it outlines the very principles responsible for guiding the nation’s future path. The Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan is the supreme law of Kazakhstan, approved by a nationwide referendum on 30 August 1995, i.e. 28 years ago.
Kazakhstan marks the Constitution Day on the 30th August every year. It is a public holiday with joint celebrations, concerts and exhibitions across the country. Underpinned by the unalienable values of freedom granted to each and every citizen, the Constitution has proven central to the country’s accomplishments and has provided its citizens with the guide for development and prosperity they enjoy today.
This year, Constitution Day has special significance as it is celebrated for the first time after the amendments to the constitution, which were approved in a nationwide referendum in June 2022, came into force. These reforms transformed Kazakhstan and ushered new democratic principles in the country. More powers and influence have been granted to parliament and local government, while presidential powers have been limited, which means the government is now more accountable to the people who elected the Parliament. In addition, under the updated Constitution, the President of Kazakhstan is now elected for a single seven-year term only, without the right to re-election, which is completely unique in the region.
Kazakhstan has established and further strengthened mechanisms that protect human rights and democracy by enhancing the role and status of the Ombudsperson for Human Rights, the Ombudsperson for Children’s Rights, and the Ombudsperson for Protecting people with disabilities.
They have also re-established the Constitutional Court, which ensures further protection of human rights and freedoms. Citizens of Kazakhstan, including the Prosecutor General and the Ombudsperson, can now appeal directly to the Constitutional Court to declare unlawful norms that they consider contrary to the principles of the Constitution.
The impact of the constitutional amendments was particularly visible during the parliamentary and local elections in March 2023. By simplifying the process of registering political parties, new parties participated in the elections, including Respublica and Baytaq. These elections are considered by many domestic and international political experts to be the most competitive in Kazakhstan’s modern history. In line with the constitutional changes, which also include direct election of rural mayors, a proportional-majoritarian model was used in the parliamentary elections for the first time since 2004. This enabled numerous self-nominated candidates to participate in single-mandate districts along with party candidates. As a result, the opportunities for citizen participation in the country’s political life have expanded significantly. Six parties managed to pass the five percent threshold required to enter Parliament, creating a truly multi-party representative body with different political views.
As Kazakhstan commemorates its Constitution, they must also celebrate the citizens of the country who embodied its core values and showed their support through last year’s referendum on constitutional reform, which made it possible to further enshrine the ideals of freedom, equality and concord into the fabric of our society. It is worth noting that five election campaigns took place in Kazakhstan in about a year, including a referendum, which means that Kazakhstan’s citizens had a direct say on all the changes.
Thanks to the constitutional amendments and reforms, a new civic and political culture has ultimately emerged in Kazakh society. Of course, their path to overhaul the existing system in the country is far from over. Transformations and reforms, including social and economic, are a constant work in progress to ensure that the country keeps pace with global changes, trends and challenges that continuously arise.
At the time of the initial signing of Kazakhstan’s Constitution in 1995, they were a young nation facing the many challenges encountered by newly independent countries all over the world. To forge their own national identity, their Constitution codified the values they hold dear and outlined the principles that laid the foundation for the country’s stability and achievements. Today, following the implementation of constitutional amendments that affected a third of the articles of the Constitution, Kazakhstan is essentially a new nation even in comparison to just a few years ago.
In ensuring the freedoms of speech, assembly and religion, as well as political diversity and personal liberty, the Constitution has provided a blueprint for the country’s social, economic and political development. Kazakhstan’s tolerant society, in which every citizen – regardless of faith – can feel valued and free, as well as its wider domestic prosperity, are testament of the forward-thinking nature of their Constitution as a guide to success, unbound by time or historic context.
Diplomatic Press Agency congratulates the citizens of Kazakhstan on the occasion of celebrating the 28th Anniversary of the Constitution Day!
Long Live the Republic of Kazakhstan!
Source: Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Budapest